With it’s contemporary architecture, fast cars and bright lights you’d be forgiven for thinking Dubai is all bling. Today we’ll explore part of Dubai Creek where history and traditions paint a very different picture.
Al Fahidi Fort recognised as the oldest building in Dubai, houses the Dubai Museum. 3 dirhams gains access to what was once home to Dubai’s rulers. A traditional dwelling, dhows and a wooden water storage tank exhibit the craftsmanship of the time. Bedouin weapons, pottery and musical instruments are on display with a backdrop of traditional fireside dancing.Take the spiral walkway underground for dioramas of jewellers, blacksmiths, weavers, tailors and farmers. A large pearl diving and fishing presentation explains Dubai’s early reliance on both. 10-minutes of video using archival footage shares progress by decade from 1960. An archaeology exhibition displays artefacts unearthed from tombs in the area, some dating back more than 2000 years. Arrive early to beat the heat and the tour buses. The museum is an attraction worth visiting but is not much fun with crowds.A short walk from the museum is Bastakiya Quarter, now known as Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. The Bastaki people of Iran settled here in the late 1800s for a combination of commercial, political and religious reasons. They brought with them a wind tower design (Bajeel in Arabic) seen high above the mud-walled buildings. The towers replicate air conditioners sucking warm air out and funnelling sea breezes in to naturally cool the rooms beneath. A necessity in summer where temperatures can reach 50ºC.Bastakiya has been restored and includes boutique hotels, art galleries, restaurants and retail but this area is not licenced so don’t expect a cold beer. You will find fresh juices, tea and at the Coffee Museum, a hit of caffeine. Visit both XVA Art Gallery Hotel and Majlis Gallery for rotating exhibitions of contemporary regional art or book a guided tour through the neighbourhood with Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. If that cold beer is still on your mind, Sherlock Holmes English Pub inside the Arabian Courtyard Hotel is opposite Al Fahidi Fort. The pub provides a break from the heat, a good menu (with low carb options) and an 8-hour happy hour! The obsession with the resident of 221B Baker street is dare I say it, elementary…Old Dubai Souk, Bur Dubai Souk or the Textile Souk is housed under wooden-latticed arcades between Al Fahidi Fort and Dubai Creek. Pashminas abound, along with embroidered and embellished fabrics and slippers. Tailors inside the souk and outside in the neighbouring streets will be eager to construct your garments. Be clear explaining your requirements and ask to examine samples of their work. Don’t be shy; negotiate. Expect to return for first and final fittings and for garments to be completed in 2-3 days. Wander further to the mouth of the Creek and the Heritage and Diving Villages. Similar to Bastakiya, the Heritage Village has boutique hotels, museums and retail but no alcohol. The pearling and fishing industries are the focus of the Diving Village. Both villages are busy in January during Dubai’s Shopping Festival with traditional cooking, camel rides and jewellery making. Nearby Sheikh Saeed al-Maktoum House, a 30 room courtyard home is open to the public. Photos of the Creek, souks and celebrations from the 1940’s and 50’s are on display.To get to Al Fahidi Fort take the Dubai Metro to Al Fahidi Station. Alternatively use Al Ghubaiba Station to begin your day at the Heritage and Diving Villages. Taxis are inexpensive and plentiful in Dubai. The different roof colours indicate specific taxi companies and a pink roof will have a female driver. Careem is the luxury car service in the Middle East using Lexus as their “business car”. Download the app and have cars on call.We’re heading across the Creek to Deira next time paraphernalians. We’ll take an Abra, visit the Spice and Gold Souks and find a spot for sundowners. Have you been to Dubai Creek before? What did you think? Being a tourist in our own backyard: it’s a thing we love….